With great care, Mike pulled the handle down on the door. I gritted my teeth at the click of the latch releasing – but it the sound barely travelled to my ears, it was unlikely they’d be able to hear anything on the other side.
It opened a few millimetres before hitting an obstacle. I cast my eye at the floor to see the deadbolt locked in place.
Mike nodded at me and I crouched down to unlock it. I wrapped my finger through the crude loop of metal welded to the bar, but it resisted any gentle attempt to pull it up.
“This is rusted to hell,” I whispered into Mike’s knee. “I’m not sure it’s going to be quiet.”
“I don’t think it’s going to matter when we get out there.” He said, leaning to look out of the dust covered panes of the window.
I sat back on my heels. “Plan?” We only had so many options.
He shrugged, “Shoot em? They don’t know we’re here, we’ve got a clear shot on all four. They’re exposed. We’ve got decent cover. We can afford to miss.”
“What, just… without…” I felt my stomach churn at the thought of lining up a shot like I had done with Beth, but on a person.
I was carrying a gun. I wasn’t afraid to shoot it. I wasn’t even afraid to shoot it at someone. But casually taking a shot at someone who wasn’t even aware of you, let alone shooting back, it didn’t sit well with me.
“They’re not going to share your concerns.” Mike hissed, “As soon as they see us they’re not going to hesitate.”
“But, we could get them to surrender?”
“How? There’s more of them than us. They’d be the ones getting us to-”
“They’re close.” I ran through an idea in my head. The only one I could come up with. “Close enough to tip the scales a little. We could take two out. Without guns. Even out the numbers.” You can control people if you get close enough.
“We’ll be handing them every advantage we’ve got…”
“You seem them even slightly make a move, fucking go for it, but I’m not just going to shoot someone in the back.”
He stared out of the window, silent, before slowly looking back to me. “Alright. We’ll do it your way. Sounds more fun anyway. I’ll take the left, you take the right. Don’t fuck up.”
I took my knife in one hand, and put Beth’s pistol on the floor in easy reach when it came to start moving.
I waited for his signal. He peered out of the window, holding his hand, palm towards me, waiting for a gap in their erratic shooting. Until the right guy was reloading his gun. Until two were close enough…
He bunched his hand into a fist, and nodded to me. “Now.”
I pulled as hard as I could on the bolt. My mind filled with the embarrassing vision of failed to even get the door open. At least it distracted me from the not-so-unlikely probability of this going terribly wrong. My finger stung, entwined in the uncomfortable twist of metal. The tendons in my fore-arm stung as they shifted under the strain.
I felt it shift, the rust binding it to the floor cracked. An instant later there was a thud and I fell backwards into the doorframe, bolt still hanging from my finger.
Mike heaved the door open as I jumped to my feet. I fumbled with the stupid chunk of metal twisted into my hand. I was forced to grab the gun with my hand already holding onto my knife.
Making pretty much both weapons useless.
You’d think your mind would be sharper in these kinds of situations, turns out you make stupid fucking mistakes sometimes.
I tried to extract the bolt from my fingers as the world opened up into the cold street. The air, now free from a filter of dusty glass, was still heavy with dusky mist and wisps of chemical smoke.
Mike peeled off to the left and I didn’t give him a second glance. I’d found my target. Side-on to us, he was just turning to the noise of the door bouncing from the wall as it finished its arc. He was the first to move.
He looked me right in the eye as I tried to solve all my problems by throwing the stupid chunk of steel as hard as I could into his face.
It struck him in the temple. As he turned away from the surprise blow I got within reaching distance. My now free hand took the gun.
Stamp to the knee.
I was almost getting used to this.
Butt of the pistol to the face.
So mechanical. Each movement was practiced. Like I’d done it a hundred times before.
Pull back the head.
Of course, I had done it a fair few times now…
Knife to the throat.
I had him on his knees, a convenient height to keep my knife point tucked firmly at the base of his jugular and a steady aim over his shoulder at the second guy.
The second guy who I hadn’t really been paying much attention to.
He had his gun up, pointing directly at me. His mouth was moving, shouting, but I was too pumped to pick up on the words. I saw Mike out of the corner of my eye, struggling with the guy to my left. His first target…
His second was fumbling with a gun, cold, adrenaline fuelled fingers trying to do the delicate little task of pushing the clip into the handle.
Come-on Mike, you’ve got seconds.
Was I going to have to-
My chest burst with impact, and gunshots rang out. With my attention on Mike, the guy pointing the gun my direction decided he’d had enough.
He’d fucking shot at me. And I’d felt it.
I hated that feeling.
My finger was already pushing the trigger. All Beth’s training went out of the window. I wasn’t aiming, I was just pointing in the general direction, firing, and praying I hit, tucking my head in behind as much of the other person as I could manage.
A black object fell past the corner of my vision and there was a thud. I felt the impact with the ground through my feet. A sharp clatter of metal on concrete followed.
The explosions of his gun overwhelming the pitiful pop of my own. My right ear was filled with a loud crack. I could feel my knife digging into my hostage’s throat as I started to take his weight. We slowly shrunk down together as I tried to keep his mass between me and the shooter.
The firing pin of my pistol clicked into an empty chamber. No more gunshots, only the lingering echoes fading into the city and the lingering stink of gunpowder.
The weight of the body was pushing down on me. I felt the too-familiar sensation of hot blood seeping through my clothes.
I took a ragged breath.
I could breathe.
I shouldn’t need to check that as often as I do.
My chest hurt, but it wasn’t the all-consuming pain of a gun-shot.
I let the lump of flesh I was holding upright slid sideways. Mike was brushing himself off, standing over an unmoving figure. The guy trying to reload his gun was spread-eagle in the muddy snow.
Someone else, the falling black mass, a crumpled heap besides a smashed submachine gun. Danni must have been waiting until we made a move. I glanced up and was a frantic wave of a long-black gun and a thumbs up.
My guy…. slumped in the fetal position on the floor, taking harsh, hissing breaths.
I looked down at my armour. A mess of gore punched into the soft material of my chest. I panicked. A short, sharp burst of “oh shit”. For a moment my body forgot that I wasn’t feeling all that much pain, that I could breathe fine, that my heard was still pumping blood around my body just like it had been doing all this time. No. It saw chunks of flesh and bone and came to the conclusion I’d taken a hit before I even got a chance to think.
As soon as I did, I knew that those bullets had done nothing to me. A few little shards of lead, mangled up after passing through a whole lot of bone and body.
But it left me with a cascade of addrenaline pumped into my bloodstream to keep me ready to fight-or-flight with a hole in my chest. My heart was racing, pounding in my ears, I was shaking, trembling.
“Was that fucking worth it?” I tried to keep my voice calm, but it broke mid-way through the sentence.
I took a step towards him. The only person who was still moving, who ten seconds ago had a chance to let everyone get out of this alive.
He clutched at his chest, wheezing with each desperate gasp for air. Pushing his body away from me like the few inches he could drag myself would do any good. I kicked his forgotten gun away from his limp hands.
Knife clutched in my fist, I punched his shoulder with my foot to force him on his back. “I don’t know if he was your friend, of if you hated his fucking guts. I don’t care for him more than anyone else but…” I bent down and pressed the knife under his spittle specked chin, forcing his head up.
There was the crunch of a boot in the snow beside me. “I thought you were against killing people who weren’t shooting back.” Mike.
“One of his own fucking guys. Jesus. And what was the fucking point of that?” I wanted nothing more than the push that blade into his flesh. He deserved worse.
A lot worse.
Well, fuck. Maybe he had worse. The sickening whistling of his laboured breathing made me grind my teeth. “You don’t fucking deserve the mercy. Enjoy the last fucking moments of your crappy little life.”
I wiped the knife on a clean bit of his sleeve and shoved it in my belt.
“Everyone alright down there?” Danni’s call came from the roof.
“I think so,” Mike called back.
I looked towards the building, ominously silent. No shouting, no blind-firing out of the window.
“Let’s get this fucking over with.” I muttered.